Distinguished Achievement Award

Mary K. Estes, PhD

Baylor College of Medicine
Texas Gulf Coast Digestive Disease Center
Houston, TX


The AGA awards the 2010 Distinguished Achievement Award to Mary K. Estes, PhD, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and medicine, gastroenterology, at Baylor College of Medicine and founding director of the Texas Gulf Coast Digestive Diseases Center. This award honors an individual who has made a major specific accomplishment in clinical or basic research in gastroenterology or an allied field that advances gastroenterology. Dr. Estes is the first woman to be selected for the Distinguished Achievement Award since its creation in 1968.

Dr. Estes has devoted her career to studying viruses that infect distinct cells in the gastrointestinal tract as probes to learn about the biology, host response and gene expression in these cells. Her laboratory discovered the first viral enterotoxin and showed it is a novel calcium channel agonist that interacts with a specific cellular receptor and triggers a signal transduction pathway that leads to mobilization of intracellular calcium, chloride secretion and diarrhea. Studies on human caliciviruses began when Dr. Estes’ laboratory was the first to clone the Norwalk virus genome, leading to diagnostic assays that resulted in a new understanding of the natural history and epidemiology of these infections.

As a long time member of the AGA, Dr. Estes has been active in various sections and served as a member of the Research Policy Committee. She was a member of the National Commission of Digestive Diseases “Infections of the GI Tract” Working Group. She is highly recognized for her scientific accomplishments and has held a variety of leadership positions including chair of the medical sciences section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), president of the American Society for Virology, and member of FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. She is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the AAAS, and a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Science.

Dr. Estes has served as the editor for the Journal of Virology and is currently and editorial board member of PLoS Pathogens. She has served as a reviewer for Science, the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology and many others. She has published more than 300 journal articles and nearly 90 reviews and book chapters.

Dr. Estes received her bachelor of arts in biology from Elmira College, New York, and attended the Sorbonne University, Paris, France to study French. She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she majored in bacteriology and immunology and minored in biochemistry.